A Chronological Table of Y Buraku and Kure City

On March 10th, 2019, American sociologist, Dr. David Fasenfest, visited Kure city and Hiroshima city. He met several Burakumin, and asked about their experiences with discrimination. He also visited a large Buraku in Hiroshima city. My research colleagues and I were pleased to assist him. This is a chronological table of Dr. Fasenfest's observation of a certain Buraku in Kure city.

Akira Kobayakawa

Year Objective conditions in Kure city. Circumstances of (mainly) Y 2-chome.
1871 At the start of the Meiji era, the Y district is good farmland with much sunlight. There are no houses, but several sheds for farm tools.
1886 Start of movement of Miyahara and Souyamada villages for construction of the second naval station.

Cholera is prevalent (1).

From 5,000 to 18,000 physical workers. A severe lack of housing and new housing starts.
Following an eviction request from the naval officer, Buraku in Miyahara village move to another place.
1887 Expanding income disparities very apparent. 200 construction outsiders get 300-yen annual incomes.

Physical laborers temporarily reduced to one-third.

An official red-light district was appeared at Yoshiura called Yoshiura-yuukaku.
1888 20,000 construction workers living like bums because military officers did not have a ready housing policy.

Construction of headspring for military purposes begins (2).
1889 Second naval station is completed.
1892 Depressed economy in Kure is notable because naval-broker business institutes corner interests.
1993 In Yoshiura-yuukaku, expansion booms.
100 ha agricultural lands damaged from drought because of military’s reckless construction.
1894 Japan-China War occurs.
1895 Asahi-yuukaku company with 42 houses and 265 shogi (prostitutes) comes into being. An individual established Kure Bandage Materials Institute (3-1). 40 laborers work in this factory.
1896 Military-oriented economy brings depressed consumer spending and increase of urban underclass.

A construction monopoly, Mizuno-gumi, appears.
Asahi-yuukaku diminishes in scale.
1897 Sudden price increases.
1902 Washo town, Miyabara village, Souyamada village and Nikawatowen, establish Kure City according to municipal organization. Population is 66,395. They are in a deplorable condition. Hiroshima Court of Appeals decides marriage discrimination based on Buraku discrimination is reasonable.

Downstream of the Kanatachi River, today’s Y 2-chome (3-2).

People begin to live here. They do not have Buraku origins.
1903 Naval station constructs a naval dockyard. Oppressed economics severe, Shipbuilding department of naval station discards 1,200 laborers.
1904 Japanese-Russo War occurs; economy recovers.
1906 Local Community Improvement, and Buraku Improvement, based on governmental policies, occurs.
Police officers, such as Yoshiomi Masukawa, organize Buraku improvement movements in each Buraku in Hiroshima prefecture. Such organizations exist in Buraku throughout the country.
1907 A change of industrial structure becomes obvious (4).
Laborers in naval dockyard count about 30,000.

Asahi-yuukaku has 45 houses and 530 prostitutes.
Kure city incorporates all crematories into one, and re-orders Y 2-chome. This was a privately-controlled facility. This becomes the one and only crematory. Ash from this facility falls onto residents’ houses.
1908 A serious economic depression hit civic life directly.
1909 People with more than 300 yen annual income number about 8,700. This is 42 times the number in 1887, and 10 times the national average. Naval jail moves to Y.
Four slaughterhouses unite to form one, and move to Y 2-chome, attracted by new butchering law, and needs of industrial water supply.
In addition, a cattle market moves there.
1910 30 houses appear in Y 2-chome. A community is formed.
1911 The Home Ministry holds a National Council of the Saimin (5) a discussion. Saimin means the urban poor. Meiji no Hikari (6) a magazine for the Buraku improvement movement, reveals Y as a Buraku.
1912 The term Buraku becomes a term of discrimination. (Tokushu Buraku Improvement Project)
1913 Mayor of Kure officially denies existence of Buraku in Kure city.
1915 A Buraku youth kills himself in the naval dockyard because of discrimination. He was a worker there. He belongs to traditional Sakae-machi.
1917 The economy improves, and labor is short. Prices increase sharply.
1918 Longshoremen’s pay increases sharply.
Kure harbor is very busy.

Navy disqualifies about 500 fishermen, to facilitate naval movements in Kure Bay.
Rice riot occurs in Kure city. Joined by saimin living in Y.
Government gives 6,657 yen, with emperor’s sympathy, for Buraku measures.
1919 Workers in naval factory number 30,000. Applicants are rushed.

Housing shortage is serious.

In Asahi-yuukaku, more than 70 ruffians appear.

Yoshiomi Masukawa is made Kure police chief.
Houses in Y 2-chome increase to 60.
Industries include a bandage materials factory, a glass bottle factory, a slaughterhouse, a cattle market, and a crematorium.
1920 Kure police form a social department that practices policy for Buraku measure. Y 2-chome homes number 73.

Kure city designates three districts as Buraku that need improvement.
According to records, Y 1-chome and Y 3-chome are also designated as Buraku. Today, most people in Kure city do not see these two as Buraku districts.
1921 Around Megane bridge, from 300 to 400 day laborers concentrate for jobs. One third of them do not get work. In Y 2-chome, Kakushin-kai (7), an organization for the improvement of actions for Burakumin’s lives, is begun. Kakushin means innovation.
As of 1903, there are 363 households in Kure city buraku.
1922 Severe economic recession. Unemployment rises. Fewer Korean laborers. Bank closures. Naval factory and private factories cut personnel.

Hoodlums throughout the city.
Drought hits Kure district.

Typhus breaks out In Yoshiura Yuukaku.
Kure Jail built in Y 2-chome.
A female Buddhist established Shion takujishio, a day care center for children.
A Buraku boy suffers from discrimination in his classroom; commits suicide under a train. The next day, his father also commits suicide.
1924 Economic recession becomes more serious.
Police mass-arrest beggars on the streets.

Yuukaku falls into despondency.
Suihei-sha movement in Kure city becomes active.
1925 Arm reductions started.
Naval factory is busy.
1926 Naval factory apprentices cut by half. Abolishing its social department, the Kure police commissioner organizes a security and peace department.
On an official graphic, lords and facilities in Y 2-chome are clearly printed. This is the first-time since a few residents came to live here, in 1902.
1928 For comparison, the population of Kure city is 176,230. Y 2-chome has a population of 440, in 107 households.
1929 Y 2-chome has a population of 315, in 70 households.

Kure city demands displacement of 60 households for reconstruction of public houses. Budget is based on reconciliation policies of the government.
City hall lends training fees, to help people of Y 2-chome find work.
1931 Shion takujisho changes its name to Shion Association, and enlarges its facility.,
1933 The crematorium comes under the municipality.
1936 Population of Kure city increases to 240,107.
1941 Naval station establishes a cemetery in Y 2-chome.
1942 A torso murder case occurs. The police investigate Y 2-chome, suspicions grounded in Buraku discrimination. In the end, the murderer is found in a different district.
1944 Population in Kure city increases to 413,000.
1945 There are 200 households in Y -2chome, with a population of 1,000.

At the end of March, 2016, the population of Y 2-chome was 368 (male 112, female 276)
At the 1st day of April, 2017, there were 123 people older than 65.
Ethnic Koreans number 8.


(1) Contagious diseases, such as cholera, dysentery, pestis, and influenza were epidemic every other year till the end of the Second World War. In 1920 there were two influenza outbreaks. Public health and hygiene organizations were unable to improve conditions until after the war.
There were not enough public toilets. In rainy weather, human waste flooded fields, and even the downtown. One senryu (traditional satirical poem) mentioned “Kure Port, a convenient place to dump your unwanted children”

(2) In 1886 and 1898, local journalist Ryuzo Hironaka reported that Washo-cho residents’ drinking water, from the muddy Niko river, was unacceptably inferior.
According to monitoring conducted in 1904 and 1905, roughly 1,400 out 4,000 wells had water of acceptable quality for drinking. Hironaka noted that for the urban poor, 0.6 yen a month for drinking water was too expensive. In 1918, Kure city started to supply piped water at a cost of 1.19 million yen. At that time, annual tax revenue of Kure city was 300 thousand yen. The chronic water shortage was not, however, resolved, as the population increased sharply. Water, vegetables, and fish were imported from other cities and prefectures, but still prices increased. Rents were the highest in the country.

(3) The Kure Bandage Materials Institute had two power sources: oil, and Japanese-style waterwheels.
The naval station chose Y 2-chome for its slaughterhouses for the following reasons.

  1. The law prohibited slaughterhouses within city limits. Y 2-chome was a small valley surrounded by farm lands.
  2. There was sufficient water for drinking and for industrial use. The naval station monopolized utility piping, and water was scarce. The Kantachi River supplied energy; the Niko River carried away waste; and wells would supply drinking water.
  3. By 1887, a good, wide road had been built, linking Y 2-chome to downtown.
  4. The fortress zone method controlled all areas of public or private building.

(4) Kure Annai-ki (A Guide to Kure City) noted the economic shift from primary and secondary industries to tertiary industry. Agriculture and fishery sectors shriveled up. Fishing ports disappeared.
The economy of Kure city now had to rely on military demand. Boom/bust cycles were heavy. Burakumin in Kure city became class of laborers whom capital could hire or fire, as appropriate. They inhabited the bottom social stratum.

From 400 to 500 private prostitutes managed themselves at the edge of the downtown.

(5) The National Council of the Saimin, 1912, discussed the definition and meaning of Buraku. Since this meeting, the term Buraku has been used denote two different things. One: small, general farming or fishing communities. Two: communities against which common people discriminated. The latter included urban communities. Japanese judge which meaning is intended from context.

(6) According to this journal, at least 3 new Buraku, besides Y 2-chome, appeared in Kure city, in areas of land reclaimed from the sea in the late Edo period. As these were designated agricultural lands, no one lived there. These Buraku constructions were part of the process of modernization.

Kure city at that time had 6 Buraku. Today, only 2 Buraku exist in the same places. Four Buraku were destroyed in the course of five allied air attacks, in 1945. Burakumin in Y fell into harder situations than any other Burakumin. Traditional Burakumin could get jobs in naval factories because they could ask for personal references, such as from teachers and monks. Most residents of Y 2-chome distant origins. They had no one local to provide personal references. Therefore they worked as day laborers for construction sites and did other tasks the common people hated. These jobs did not require personal references.

Not only common people, but also traditional Burakumin labeled residents of Y 2-chome as the bottom of society. Traditional Burakumin sentiment was that, “If Y 2-chome residents are Burakumin, we are not Burakumin.”

Hironaka explains that severe discrimination was manifested in the unique way that the fire station organized Burakumin. For commoners, retirement or removal from an established fire station indicated a declaration of separation from the commoners’ community.

(7) Kakushin-kai was an improvement organization that intended to function for the reconciliation of Burakumin and Non-Burakumin. The existence of the organization proves that discrimination and economic gaps between Burkumin and Non-Burakumin were a severe social problem. Uninhabited farmland became Buraku in just two generations.

(8) Jigoku is hell. Bodies never return home; they go to the crematory. In addition, the slaughterhouse dumped blood into the river below this bridge, turning the water red. The place was said to look like hell.

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